By Cynthia Coyle, M.Ed., R.C.C.

If you are concerned about your use of alcohol or other mood altering substances or if someone close to you has expressed concern for you in this area, you may be experiencing a level of alcohol or drug involvement that is interfering with your life. Before we look at some of the indicators of dependency it is important that you know that these are only indicators. They are not meant to provide a definitive assessment but to give you information to help you begin the process of addressing your concern about substance use. If you find that your level of concern has increased with this information please consider accessing help to gain a more thorough assessment and support. Isolation can fuel an alcohol or drug dependency. Often the first step to breaking the vicious cycle involves reaching out and asking for help.

Part of the nature of alcohol and drug dependency involves the tendency to not see the impact of substance use in one’s life. This tendency to rationalize can be quite extreme and may involve a range of reactions from complete denial to blaming people, places and things. Moving through this aspect of dependency can be difficult and takes time and often assistance. This is an area that can create pain for family members, as they are often the objects of blame when the real source of problems is the addiction. As you read the following information, be aware of the possibility of rationalizing so that you may be taking as clear a view as possible of the role of alcohol and drugs in your life.

The first set of indicators arises out of your relationship to alcohol or other drugs. How important is this particular substance in your life? Do you often think about drinking or using throughout the day? Do you look forward to the next opportunity to use this substance? Do you feel uncomfortable when something or someone is getting in the way of your plans to use the substance? Is it quite important that you have a supply on hand at all times? Do you sometimes plan a limited amount of use only to go overboard or plan not to drink or drug at all and end up doing so?

These questions are not to be taken in an absolute sense. Try to pick up the spirit of the questions, that being to help you identify the level of significance of this relationship in your life. If it is a very important relationship then some concern is warranted. For some people the relationship involves hiding and secrecy. These are certainly indicators for concern.

The next area to review is the impact of drinking or drugging on your life. One way to look at this is to break it down into the areas of your life. These would include family (or significant relationships), social, physical and work. Another important area for many people is spiritual, and an area that sometimes arises out of alcohol and drug misuse is legal. It may be helpful to write these areas as headings, and under each one list the specific problems caused by alcohol or drugs. For example, under the heading of family you might say, “I promised to take my children out on a Saturday but I was too hung over”. Be specific and think of as many examples as possible. Do this for each category. If you can list problems related to drinking or drug use under any of these categories some concern is warranted. Again it is important to remember that identifying dependency is a process involving many variables. This information is provided to assist you in deciding if further assessment may be helpful.

A last area that may indicate concern is the personal impact of alcohol or other drugs. If you can relate to any of the following statements, you have reason for concern:

I hope that this information is helpful to you as you address your concerns about alcohol or drug use. There is private, public, and self-help available to assist in this area. Give yourself permission not to have all the answers and to seek help if needed.